The Zenobia wreck is one of the top wreck dives on the planet, originally a roll on-roll off (RO-RO) ferry, not unlike the ferries that service the Dover-Calais route between the UK and France.
She sank in 42 meters of water in Larnaca, Cyprus on her maiden voyage in June, 1980 after departing from Malmo, Sweden. Her final destination was Tartous, Syria but she never made it; after just a short while at sea her captain noticed severe steering problems. Investigations showed that the ballast tanks on the port side were filling with water, and there was nothing they could do to stop it.
In June last year, a graduate of the Maritime Archaeology Sea Trust’s PADI Basic Archaeological Diver Distinctive Specialty course found a beach wreck in the shadows of Bamburgh Castle last year.
Following MAST’s archaeological and dendrochronological surveys, English Heritage designated the site under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as a Scheduled Monument in March 2014, making it an offence to damage it at any state of the tide.
The site made its appearance in the sand in June 2013. It was spotted by Steve Brown, an avocational archaeologist and recent graduate and now instructor of MAST’s PADI Basic Archaeological Diver Distinctive Specialty course.
Dr Roderick Bale of University of Wales, Trinity St David found not only that the timber was local to east England but noted a terminus post quem (the date after which it could have built) of 1768.
The wreck consists of the exposed remains of the port side of a wooden sailing vessel lying on its starboard side with its stern inshore. The rare survival and position of some of the features within the site – mast, pump and windlass – suggest that the buried structure could be mostly intact as the position of hull structure, deck beams and even deck fittings are all as would be expected from a mostly intact buried vessel. This is incredibly rare within the UK.
MAST conducted the survey with the help of volunteers from Bournemouth University and the PADI Basic Archaeological Diver Distinctive Specialty course who supplied their expertise and equipment. It was financed by both funds from the MAST course and from a grant from the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Northumberland.
The discovery and survey of this unique and historically significant site shows how archaeologists and trained amateurs can work together in a cost effective way. With public funding for such projects being at its lowest in years, this marks a promising growth in the development of the network of heritage eyes and ears being developed by MAST – which, in this case, discovered a shipwreck of national importance.